Effect on Families

Some people believe that if human cloning were a reality, it would only add to the confusion already generated by the use of some other reproductive technologies. When donated eggs and surrogate mothers are used, the genetic parents are different from the gestational parents and the rearing parents, and conflicts have arisen regarding who the real parents are. Cloning, objectors contend, would be even more of a problem. It would add to this confusion the blurring of lines between generations. The mother's child could be her twin, or a twin of her own mother or father.

According to Leon Kass in "The Wisdom of Repugnance," this would lead to a confusion of kinship relations. In natural reproduction, two lineages come together to form one new being. "The child is the parents' own commingled being externalized and given a separate and persisting existence" (p. 30). Genetically, the cloned child has only one parent, the provider of the somatic cell. The child is literally the child of only one of a couple. What happens, then, to the traditional relationships with the members of the other side of the family, grandparents, aunts, and uncles? Or to the relationship of the husband to the child who is the twin of the mother or the wife to the child who is the twin of her husband? The answer, according to this objection, is that normal and natural human family relationships would be seriously eroded and harmed.

Critics of these arguments respond that, although there is a traditional type of family that in fact varies from culture to culture, there are also many different kinds of non-traditional families. Among these are single-parent households, adopted families, blended families, and lesbian and gay families. It is not the type of family that makes for a good loving household, the argument goes, but the amount of love and care that exists there. Children can learn new or different ways of relating to others. For example, just as stepparents can find ways of being valued parts of their stepchildren's lives, so also the parent who is not a genetic parent of a cloned child could adapt.

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Anxiety and Depression 101

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